Gordon Brown has said he is
“mortified” after being caught on microphone describing a voter he
had just spoken to in Rochdale as a “bigoted woman”.
Gillian Duffy, 65, had challenged
him on issues including immigration.
As he got into his car, he was
still wearing a broadcast microphone and was heard to say “that was a
Mr Brown later spent more than half
an hour at Mrs Duffy’s house, apologising to her before telling waiting
reporters he had misunderstood what she had said.
He said: “If you like, I’m a
penitent sinner. Sometimes you say things you don’t mean to say, sometimes you
say things by mistake and sometimes when you say things you’ll want to correct
them very quickly.
“I wanted to come here and say
to Gillian that I was sorry, I had made a mistake, but also to say I understood
the concerns she was bringing to me and I had simply misunderstood some of the
words she had used.”
The comments were made after the conversation
with Mrs Duffy which ended with him complimenting her and her family.
Not realising he still had a Sky
News microphone pinned to his shirt, he was heard to tell an aide: “That
was a disaster – they should never have put me with that woman. Whose idea was
that? It’s just ridiculous…”
Asked what she had said, he is
heard to reply: “Ugh everything! She’s just a sort of bigoted woman that
said she used to be Labour. I mean it’s just ridiculous. I don’t know why Sue
brought her up towards me.”
Mrs Duffy, a widow who has a
daughter and two grandchildren, said she used to work with disabled children
for Rochdale council before she retired.
When asked did this in any way make
up for the comments she said “no – absolutely not”.
The Conservatives said Mr Brown’s
comments spoke for themselves.
Shadow chancellor George Osborne
said: “That’s the thing about general elections; they do reveal the truth
Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg
said the incident was “just wrong”, when someone had asked him a
“perfectly reasonable question”.
“Of course we have differences
of opinion, that’s what a democracy is about, but just because someone
disagrees with you it doesn’t mean you should insult them. Whatever people say
you try to treat them with the respect they deserve,” he said.
Mr Clegg later said the prime
minister had “gone out of his way to apologise and that’s that”.